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What’s the Right Level of Detail for Procedures and Work Instructions?

Two common mistakes people make when writing policies and procedures involve opposite sides of the same coin—Not enough detail or Too much detail.  Some policies and procedures fail because they are so vague and generic that people can’t use them.  Other policies and procedures are so long-winded and complex that people can’t follow or understand them.
If your goal is writing policies and procedures that get read and used, you need to find the right balance between conciseness and completeness. “Completeness” doesn’t have to do with how long the policy or procedure is. The best test for completeness is how usable the information is. Does the document contain enough information so the reader can perform the task safely and correctly—but no more than the task requires?
You can tell that you have included the right level of detail when the least experienced, trained user can safely perform the procedure as written without needing to ask questions.
To achieve this balance, writers should focus on the “Need to Know” information and leave out the “Nice to know” information. “Need to know” means just the information required to safely and efficiently perform the task.
So, what if one person’s “Nice to Know” information is another person’s “Need to Know” information? What do you do then?  You can get the best of all worlds and get the most value from your Operations Manuals, or Policy Manual by designing your content to provide DRILL DOWN access so each reader can access the level of detail he or she needs at a given time.
Operations Mapping techniques and Zavanta software are specifically designed to help you achieve the right level of detail in your content and allow easy drill down for maximum effectiveness.